HARARE – President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government has awarded judges “housing loans” of US$400,000 which lawyers are calling “bribes”, less than three months before watershed elections when the same judges could be called upon to decide the election winner.
The judges were not required to sign loan agreements, ZimLive understands.
The huge payout comes after similar payments to Central Intelligence Organisation directors (US$350,000), MPs (US$40,000) and cabinet ministers (US$500,000).
A lawyer said: “Judges’ conditions of service are constitutionally established. These loans are not part of them. The fact that this is also coming in an election year has the odour of a bribe.
“Giving judges more than they are entitled to is just as bad as giving them less than is due to them. Either way, their independence is interfered with.
“They can get a pay rise. And when they do, it must be in terms of an accountable and public process. Who gets a pay rise in the form of a house? A bribe is far from a pay rise.”
Judicial Service Commission secretary Walter Chikwana said he was off duty and was not able to comment.
Political analysts say this year’s elections could be close and disputes are likely to spill over to the courts.
The latest payments to judges, seen as inducements, will cast a pall on the judiciary, long accused of doing the bidding of the ruling Zanu PF party and its leader President Emmerson Mnangagwa.
Mnangagwa’s controversial victory in 2018 was rubberstamped by the Constitutional Court. In 2021, three High Court judges ruled that Chief Justice Luke Malaba’s term had legally terminated after he turned 70, but Mnangagwa rushed through constitutional amendments to keep him in the position for a further five years. – ZimLive